In then next part of “Today in Cardinals History,” we’ll take a look at one of the greatest pitching performances by a Cardinal in the postseason. Game 3 of the 2006 World Series pit the Cards against the Tigers in a battle for the crown.
Be sure to also check out our last entry in “Today in Cardinals History” about October 19th.
The Cardinals somehow managed to claw their way into the 2006 playoffs thanks to a dreadful NL Central division despite their 83-79 regular season record. Never mind the fact that they held the second-worst record of a team to ever make the playoffs, the Cardinals managed to defeat the Padres and Mets in the first two rounds en route to perhaps the most unlikely World Series appearance ever.
Due in large part to the regular season woes of St. Louis, the Tigers were heavily favored to take the series with relative ease. However, after a split of the first two games in Detroit, the Cardinals were able to take hold of home field advantage upon their return to Busch Stadium. With ace Chris Carpenter having pitched in the historic Game 7 against the Mets in the NLCS, Game 3 marked his first World Series start.\
Ozzie Smith was on hand to throw out a memorable first pitch, but it was Carpenter who took the mound in earnest that night. Carpenter, who missed the entirety of the 2004 World Series with an injury, delivered a remarkable shut-out performance in front of the St. Louis faithful. His final line was 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6K over an incredibly efficient 82 pitches. Him and Yadier Molina were in perfect sync all night, and he managed to navigate a potent Tigers lineup with relative ease on the game’s biggest stage.
With Carpenter putting up zero after zero, the Cards didn’t have to do much except scratch out a few runs to take the 2-1 lead in the series. Jim Edmonds delivered in the 4th inning with a bases-loaded double to put the Cardinals up 2-0, and 2 more runs would go on to score in the 7th inning thanks to an error by Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya. That error sent the home crowd into an absolute frenzy, and the Cardinals could sense the momentum swing heavily in their direction.
Carpenter was pulled after his eight brilliant innings in favor of reliable set-up man Braden Looper. Looper turned in a perfect 9th inning, and the Cardinals secured a 5-0 win on this day 10 years ago to go ahead 2-1 in the series.
Of course, we all know how this story ends. But, some fans don’t realize the importance that this game had on the rest of the series. The 83-79 St. Louis Cardinals sent their ace to the mound in their brand new ballpark with the World Series all knotted up at 1 and came away with a victory. Without that victory, the Cards would be staring a 2-1 deficit in the face with the hardly intimidating Jeff Suppan on the hill the next night.
Luckily, they did win that game, and the game after that, and the game after that, to win the 2006 World Series 4 games to 1 over the Detroit Tigers. The team wrapped it all up in St. Louis without even bothering to return back to Detroit where things could get dicey again. Thanks to Carpenter’s herculean effort, the bullpen was well rested to close games out after Suppan and Jeff Weaver kept the team in the game into the later innings.
In retrospect, Game 3 was the Cardinals putting the rest of the MLB on notice, with Carpenter at the forefront. The experience of losing the 2004 World Series allowed this team to throw all of the numbers out the window, and just play ball. And that’s exactly what they did on their way to the Cards’ first World Series Championship since 1982.